Chicago Cubs: Great things are on the horizon for Albert Almora

Feb 15, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. during a Spring Training workout at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 15, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. during a Spring Training workout at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

After a hot spring, the sky is the limit for Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora

The Chicago Cubs lineup is loaded with big name talent. Names like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Ben Zobrist have become household names. The next Cubs player to become one might be Albert Almora.

Almora was drafted by the Cubs in the first round of the 2012 draft. Since then, he has been destroying opposing pitching by posting batting averages over .300 in three of the five seasons since being drafted. That hot bat earned Almora a call-up in 2016 as he made his major league debut on June 7.

The 22-year-old Almora appeared in a total of 47 games for the Cubs in 2016. He logged 112 at-bats and hit .277 with three home runs and 14 RBI’s. Almora also recorded a .308 OBP, and .455 slugging percentage in his short stint at the major league level in 2016.

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Locked-in for the 2017 season:

Coming into the 2017 season, Albert Almora figured to have an expanded role for the Cubs. After the departure of center fielder Dexter Fowler, the Cubs have turned to Almora to step up. As spring training draws to an end, it is safe to say that Almora is answering the call.

During the spring, Almora received 66 at-bats. In those at-bats, he recorded seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 16 RBI’s, and hit at a .318 clip. Included in those four home runs were two grand slams.

His great performance at the plate, as well as defensively, has not been in vain.

If Almora does start on Opening Night against the St. Louis Cardinals, it will likely be in center field. It is Almora’s primary position and a position at which he has made some great catches at this spring.

Getting on Base:

Almora has always had a knack for getting on base. In 2012, between rookie ball and Low-A, Almora recorded a .331 OBP. A year later, that number jumped to a .369 mark while Almora was at Single-A. More recently, Almora logged a .327 mark in Double-A in 2015, and a .317 mark in Triple-A in 2016.

Even though those numbers have dropped off somewhat, Almora is still capable of getting on base regularly.

A high OBP will be very important to Almora’s success, as well as the success of the Cubs. The more Almora can get on base, the more new lead-off man Kyle Schwarber has a chance to drive in runs.

Fangraph Projections:

Fangraph’s projections of Albert Almora show that they expect him to play in only 77 games in 2017 and slash .269/.300/.398. Those numbers would mean that Almora would regress from what he posted in 2016.

With the hot spring that Almora has had, and the confidence that manager Joe Maddon would bestow in him by starting him on Opening Night, Almora should be able to top these projections.

Expectations are through the roof:

Not to put any more pressure on the young man, but Cubs fans are wanting a repeat, and Almora is an important part of that process. With the return of Schwarber and an improved bullpen, there is no reason why the Cubs cannot go deep into the postseason in 2017.

No one is expecting Almora to fill Fowler’s shoes 100% in 2017, that is why the Cubs brought in Jon Jay, but fans would like to see a step in the right direction from Almora.

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A step in the right direction would mean carrying over some of the offensive pop he has displayed this spring. If he can keep making great catches in the outfield, and keep hitting the ball like he has this spring, Albert Almora will be the next household name on this Cubs roster.